23 October 2012

NLPPeople: boosting job opportunities for language techies

The European language industry probably needs good business staff – marketers, sales directors, social media experts, and senior management – as much as it needs techies. Yet these days it is often the techies who take the risk of starting up new companies around a promising technology idea. At the same time, companies in various verticals are now desperately looking for new expertise in natural language and speech processing to help with their big data, virtual assistant and globalization agendas. How about a dedicated site for matching NLP expertise with market demand?
Maxim Khalilov, who currently works at TAUS Labs out of Amsterdam, has had the neat idea of building a free language technology job board for language technology positions called NLPPeople. It brings together not just a growing list of job vacancies, but also value-add in the shape of advice for graduates starting out on a first job in industry, and a space for sharing experience and information to raise the overall level of understanding and expectation about industry-type conditions. 

Now that the first proofs of concept for data mining and sentiment detection have been successfully carried out on social media and other big data sources, the language barrier will start to kick in for global analytics. Hence the growing need among jobs advertised on NLPPeople for language-specific expertise in the NLP space, not simply machine learning skills. The jury is still out on the translate/analyse local language debate for big data processing, and both approaches will inevitably be tested. But the availability of language-savvy technologists could largely drive the conversation towards radical multilinguality, rather than ‘data’ translation.

A back of the envelope calculation based on the Stuttgart University listing suggests that Europe has between 150 and 200 academic centers producing graduates/PhDs in computational linguistic and speech processing, or from 1,700 to 2000 people being trained in various aspects of language technology-friendly disciplines. According to Khalilov, most other job listings focus on university positions or jobs in very large global IT companies, with a strong emphasis on software development rather than linguistic expertise –in the broadest sense of the term). Let’s hope that NLPPeople can put the right sort of graduates in touch with any of the 500 to 600 language/speech technology businesses needing technical staff in Europe, and even more importantly with the growing number of data-centric businesses that will need trained language engineers to turn data insights into export profits. 

Author: Andrew Joscelyne
Hat-tip to Steven Krauwer and Georg Rehm for useful input.

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